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Eve, Page 2

William P. Young

  I am your mother. You are the witness. Come and see! the lady whispered without moving her lips. The woman’s long fingers closed around her wrists and lifted her as if she weighed nothing and was not restrained.

  My mother? The word mother stirred bitter emotions. Confusion set in. She didn’t want to go anywhere.

  Come, my daughter. Come witness the Creation—the perfection that will heal your broken body and shattered soul!

  The girl tugged against the gentle grip, tried to pry away the fingers, but they would not yield. A kiss of air against her cheeks gave her the sensation of shooting upward—and she was now clinging to that hand. The sight of what lay below stole away her breath: the body she had just vacated. Her wrecked, mangled, bandaged body. It was restrained beneath a mass of straps, tubes, and a network of wires, machinery purring in the shadows.

  She froze, and for an instant all was still. She held her breath, feeling sick.

  How many times can I die? she thought.

  No—not death, the mother said. Life. Come watch. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

  And then the hand released her. Abandoned her.

  She shut her eyes tight to lock out the rising panic. Instead of falling, she floated, weightless. A foreign warmth rushed over her, an oily thickness that simultaneously overwhelmed and embraced. But then it slipped into her mouth. The realization she was ingesting this slick sludge swept her to the brink of terror. Again, fluid filled her lungs as she gasped.

  But when she didn’t suffocate, she relaxed by degrees.

  Breathable liquid? Impossible! Insane!

  Eyes wide open, seeing nothing, she allowed herself to drift. She resisted the urge to find an anchor, a mooring to time or place, a tether to memory. She almost felt free.

  An underlying peace emerged, a sense that she would not be left alone. Someone knew she was here, if only the ebony-skinned woman who had said she was her mother. Come see, she had said. Watch. But this universe was void, vacant, and formless.

  Now she resented the invitation. The bait and switch, the abandonment, was uncomfortably familiar.

  She floated for perhaps a nanosecond, or maybe a million years. There was no way to perceive the difference. There was nothing to watch, nothing to see.

  Then a detonation. Her whole body flinched. Her neck craned toward the burst of light. It was instant and continuous, overwhelming energy and information spreading outward, rushing toward her, overtaking. It was color. It was song. It was joy and fire, and blood and water. It was voice—singular and many, rising and thrusting, uniting with the void.

  Chaos and matter collided, setting off sparks of playfulness and power, creating energy, space, and time. On the periphery, graceful spirit beings applauded the display, their elation bursting from their palms like dazzling water droplets, glimmering beads of perspiration, shimmering jewels. The effect was an overwhelming cacophony as harmony wrapped itself around a central melody.

  She felt larger than a galaxy and smaller than a particle. All around her, joyous rapture tore the substance of things apart, then put it back together. A tidal surge of voices rose, engulfing her in an assembly of scents. Sweet incense became a ballad of yearning, a choreographed dance of being and belonging. Around and through it all rippled not One, not Two, but Three Voices—and yet only One. A magnificent laugh of raucous affection.

  The Great Dance, a voice affirmed.

  The mother’s? she wondered.

  This is the grand Beginning.

  The girl spun in the liquid, searching for the voice. Straining to find the woman, she hesitantly called, “Mother?”

  • • •

  “AH, FINALLY AWAKE, I see, at least for longer than a few seconds. Welcome to the land of the living and the Refuge.”

  This voice was familiar. John’s, she supposed. It was firm and altogether ordinary, but compared to what she had just witnessed, this “normal” was a little disappointing.

  Great! she thought. I died again and this is hell and there is a man in it.

  She tried to move her head toward him. She heard him yell, “Don’t!”

  Too late. Intense pain gripped her neck like a vise. Fog started from the edges of her vision and congregated in the center until she gave in. The last thing she heard as darkening grays descended was that ordinary voice, now exasperated, saying, “And there she goes again . . .”

  • • •

  A BRUSH OF SOMETHING gentle swept across her face. A whisper.

  What you saw was the crafting of creation’s womb. What you heard was the very first conception. Now we await the coming of the child.

  In a twinkling her eyes reopened, and she saw the cosmos still unfolding, alive with joyful abandon, ceaseless commotion.

  You mean . . . this is the beginning of the world?

  The very first story. This voice was disembodied, around her and within her, everywhere and nowhere.

  The girl watched, conflicted. The big bang?

  A deep belly laugh was the only reply. The sound became a golden rope that joined visible harmonies and melodies, which formed threads of a tapestry woven with precious stones and fire, entwined with faith and hope and love.

  The womb of creation was growing and expanding, flexing. It was potent and wild and unfettered, yet orderly and precise.

  The girl was enthralled and uncomfortable. Expectant and cynical. Attracted and repelled. She knew this story, and she didn’t.

  Did she?

  It was beautiful and terrifying. In all the magnificent display a tiny blue sphere emerged, spinning fragilely and exposed.

  Here is the place where the pregnancy will soon be fulfilled in water, blood, and dust! Here, the child will soon be born. And you will witness it, my daughter. You are the Witness to the Ages of Beginnings.

  The words fell hard on her ears. Grating, religious words. They opened a wound in her.


  It is for you, my daughter. A gift for you and for every man and woman born under this nascent light.

  “No,” she spoke aloud. The word went out into the beauty like a poisoned dart. “I’m no witness. And I don’t want to be.”

  The universe blinked out.

  • • •

  A DIFFERENT MELODY, A simple humming and clicking in the background, snapped her back to her bed. The contrast between these puny noises and the staggering harmonies of Creation’s music was beyond disappointing. It was as if an awe-inspiring, roaring waterfall quickly tapered off, becoming an annoying drip into a stagnant pool.

  She also felt relieved.

  Someone was droning a tune she didn’t recognize, a lilting wordless chant. The girl aspirated a weak cough, and the melody abruptly stopped. Sounds of steps approached.

  “Going to try again, are we?” It was the same male voice as before. John. This time she could see his face, its details blurred and indistinct, as if she were looking through water from a great depth. A brown-skinned male with a short beard and bushy eyebrows, threads of gray patterned throughout receding hairline. His movements brought on nausea, so she closed her eyes.

  Elsewhere in the room, the humming resumed.

  He gently wiped the tears that collected beneath a wrapping or bandage that covered most of her face. She flinched at his touch and tried to object. She couldn’t move her jaw. It was restrained by some sort of cage that left a distinct metallic taste in her mouth. She struggled to swallow. Again she rode the edge of claustrophobic panic.

  “All right then, easy does it.” The man’s tone, meant to be soothing and reassuring, only stirred her nausea. “I imagine you’re extremely confused right now. You must have a million questions. If you don’t, I do. And don’t try to talk,” he quickly added. “None of that will work yet, but they tell me it will soon.

  “If you’re able to understand what I am saying,” John continued, “please open your eyes and blink once for yes and twice for no.”

  She blinked once.

  “Ah, just to be sure, th
at was single blink, for yes, yes? Not some random response and unfortunate timing on my part? Again, one blink for yes, and two for no.”

  A tinge of anger tempted her to pretend to be unconscious. She resented her captivity and his commands. Still, she obeyed.


  “Excellent.” He sounded genuinely pleased. “Good. Wouldn’t want to keep babbling just to hear the sound of my own voice. Hmm?”

  Momentarily perplexed, she decided to blink twice. Was he asking a question?

  “So sorry!” he apologized. “This is our first attempt at an actual conversation, and I must do better. What if I ask ‘yes’ or ‘no’ at the end of any real question? Would that help? Yes or no?”

  She blinked.

  “Good! Then let me start with some basic introductions. My name is John and you are being cared for in my home, which most refer to as the Refuge. And also in the room at this moment is the feisty and diminutive Letty . . .”

  “He means short, dearie,” came the shrill female voice from somewhere lower than the level of the bed. The unexpected presence of a woman in the room was comforting.

  “I’m short and older than him, and he is envious of both,” she chortled. “And dearie, in case you are concerned, you are completely gowned and covered, and others of us women have been watching over you. Though you have nothing to fear from John.”

  Through her distorted vision she saw the man smile toward the voice. “Letty, I could get a stool for you to stand on so she could see you.”

  “There is no need for that just yet, John. I dropped by to check on your charge and let you know that three strangers have arrived in our community, Scholars from the look of them, and from a very great distance. They want to speak to you and her. That’s all.” The humming resumed, confirming Letty was its source.

  The man returned his attention to the girl. “Do you know your name, yes or no?”

  Blink. Blink.

  “No? Hmm, then I must assume that you don’t know where you’re from either, or even when you’re from. Not a question, simply an observation.” She closed her eyes, uninterested. She wanted him to leave. She wanted to sleep.

  “Do you have any memory at all of how you came to be here, yes or no?”

  Blink. Blink.

  For the next quarter hour or so, he asked questions. But the communication was entirely one-sided, and the incessant demands that she answer became frustrating and tiring.

  No, she didn’t remember where she came from, or her family. She did know she was human and a female, questions she thought peculiar.

  Yes, she hurt.

  That was true—her head was pounding out the rhythm of her heartbeat—but no, she couldn’t wriggle her toes or move her feet, or feel them when he tapped. She could raise her eyebrows and furrow her forehead and blink, but no other movement seemed possible.

  Again, she felt panic rise as the throbbing in her head increased its pace, but he immediately explained the reason for her paralysis. Specific healing herbs and medicines had been administered because her initial recovery required complete immobilization. This eased her alarm but raised additional questions, which she could not ask.

  As the man talked, he moved about tinkering with or clanging this or that, business that she could only hear and imagine. Finally, he stopped asking questions and began giving her information.

  John referred to himself as a Collector. As a Collector, John amassed things delivered by offshore currents onto rock-strewn beaches near his home. She had been in the Refuge recuperating for months.

  “Washed up” was how John described her, on the shores of an “island” between worlds, a victim of what he called a tragedy—some event both terrible and destructive. Along with her had come wreckage: a chaos of metal, paper, toys and wood, artifacts, and other detritus of her civilization and time. It had all been boxed and placed in another storage room somewhere nearby. When her strength returned, she could rummage through it.

  “I didn’t mean to discover you,” John said. “After all, I’m a simple Collector, not a Finder.”

  Apparently Finders would always be mystically entangled with whatever it was they found. From the way John spoke of it, such a law was authoritative throughout the universe.

  The girl didn’t like the sound of that. Entangled with a man? Anxiety stirred within her like an agitated wolf.

  He carried on for the better part of an hour explaining this, then apologized profusely for another quarter hour because his rant made it seem that her situation, and his as a result, was entirely her fault.

  This was mean, she thought, inflicting pain as cruel as her physical injuries.

  But it wasn’t long before the singsong rhythm of his words along with the quiet background humming caused her to drift. She couldn’t keep a grip on what he said, nor did she want to. She gave herself to the current, hoping for inky blackness and freedom from expectations.

  Her hope was in vain.


  * * *


  Approaching the surface of the Earth, the girl floated down onto a small, barren hill. It stood at the edge of a rolling flatland peppered by groves of trees that gathered into forests. Beyond these in the purple distance stood row upon row of larger hills, and behind these, the jagged teeth of a mountain range.

  This grandeur she barely noticed, her attention drawn to and then riveted by what was behind her. Turning, she gasped and instinctively took a step backward. A titanic storm of undulating energy and water rose above a plateau. The barrier stretched from side to side and from ground to sky as far and high as her sight allowed. It pulsed like a living thing. Light and heat radiated into every cell of her body.

  “It never ceases to mystify and enthrall me,” said a voice next to her. Barely able to tear her gaze from the wall, the girl glanced at the tall, fine-boned woman beside her.

  “You’re the one who calls yourself Mother,” she said. “You’re not my mother.”

  The presence of this woman was more substantial and captivating than even the stormy barrier. She stood with noble bearing, more striking and beautiful than the girl had first noticed, with high cheekbones announcing piercing dark-brown eyes flecked with gold, and white hair tightly braided with ends cascading like small rivulets to her shoulders. Her shimmering robes, regal and colorful, flowed as if teased by every thought or gesture.

  The woman smiled and leaned forward until their foreheads touched.

  “Yes, I am your mother, Lilly,” she whispered.

  “Lilly?” The name stunned the girl, but she knew instantly it was hers. “My name is Lilly? Oh my God, I remember. My name is Lilly Fields!”

  Just as quickly she realized what else the woman had said. “And you’re my mother? How can you be my mother? You’re . . .”

  “Black?” She laughed so cleanly and joyfully that Lilly couldn’t help but join her, though still completely perplexed. “Dear one, how beautiful is black, which includes and keeps all color?”

  “I still don’t know who you are. What’s your name?”


  “You’re Eve? The Adam-and-Eve Eve?”

  “Yes, my child. Eve, the Mother of the Living! Lilly, where do you think we are?”

  “I don’t know,” Lilly stammered. “Lost in some dream or drug hallucination or some kind of catastrophic mental illness?” She hesitated and then blurted, “Am I going crazy?”

  Lilly lowered her head and looked toward the ground as if it might help her collect scattered thoughts. Surprised, she realized she also wore a sheer garment of flowing, prismatic light, perfect and pure and protective. Though Lilly instantly felt the familiar threat of being exposed, she was also surprised by a foreign sense of safety. This contradiction could not be true.

  “Well, if you really knew me,” she mumbled, eyes downcast, “you’d know I don’t belong here.”

  “Dear one,” Eve said, “can you ever say you truly know yourself?” Then suddenly the w
oman’s tone changed, her words both declaration and command. “I sense the presence of an accusation. Show yourself to me!”

  As she spoke, Lilly heard a rustling in the brush, from which emerged the swaying head of a sinewy asp. If it was aware of Eve, it paid her no notice and instead swiftly rose in front of the girl. Lilly recoiled. It looked her in the eyes, its hood fanning like miniature wings. A tongue split darted in and out, tasting the air. Eve watched, her face blank and arms folded.

  “What are you?” it hissed. “I have never seen your kind.”

  Lilly’s breath caught in her chest. She averted her eyes. “Nothing,” she whispered. “I’m nothing.”

  “By your own decree then, you are nothing. But nothing has a voice, so who are you?”

  “No one,” Lilly said. “I don’t belong here.” Strangely, with each of her words it seemed the serpent grew in size.

  “Curious!” The snake pulled back as if to get a better view. “So tell me, why is nothing and no one here?”

  Lilly had no answer for that.

  It cocked its head to the side and tasted the air again. “You are a strange kind, unknown to me. At most you are an interruption.” With that it dropped to the ground and disappeared. Lilly felt agitated and somehow dismissed but remained still. The rustling of leaves shifted nearby, then swiftly moved away.

  “What was that?” she asked.

  “Sometimes,” responded Eve, “a snake is just a snake.”

  “But it talked to me!”

  “Sometimes a snake is something more. If a lie gets too much attention, it can grow. But that doesn’t concern me in this moment. What does is that your presence is known to others, some who may not always have your best at heart.”

  Lilly hugged herself. “You’re scaring me a little.”

  “Don’t be afraid,” said Eve. “I have seen how this unfolds.”

  “This”—Lilly held up her arms as if to encompass all they saw—“has happened more than once?”

  “No, only once, and this is it,” Eve said, as if it made perfect sense. “And you are here to witness.”